The Day I Should Have Stayed Home (a retrospective tale of woe, part II)


Have you ever known someone who assumes the very worst possible meaning behind whatever is said to them? You could be walking along through a department store with a person like this and when you say, "Ooh! Look at that blue skirt! It's so pretty", this person will assume you mean it as a personal insult  to them since they are wearing tan pants and not a blue skirt. Pretty extreme but I've seen it before. 

Similarly, there are some people who could walk into a beautiful garden and only notice the spiders and slugs. I've never actually known anyone to do this but I'm guessing it's happened at some point in history.

The truth is that we all have moments when we cease to see the beauty around us because we are focused on some imperfection. 

The day I went to the writing and illustration conference was one of those times. I met really nice people. Most of them said kind things, helpful things, instructive and informative things. And there were cookies. But because I was in a dark mental fog I didn't really focus on most of that. I did however zero in on a moment when this one person who worked for a publishing company said, "Have you ever considered using more modern clothing for your characters?" She must not have noticed that I myself was dressed a little like Mary Poppins. 

(Sadly there are not a lot of Mary Poppins type clothes currently being manufactured. Although, now that the new movie is coming out, maybe there will be a revival. Oh, I hope so! ) 

I also paid close attention when an illustrator leading a workshop I attended said, "Without fail, when I go to schools and ask kids to draw a character, there's always a little girl or two who draw a character in a fluffy dress with an apron on." She shook her head, and went on to ask, "When was the last time you saw somebody wearing something like that?" I wanted to say, "Yesterday. It was me." But I didn't. 

I also paid attention in a writing workshop when the teacher shared a formula for writing a great story. Part of the formula was that towards the end of the story the main character (the hero) needs to save them-self. It's very important that no one else rescues them. "Great," I thought. "I just wrote a book about a main character who's not the hero of the story and who has to be rescued by outside forces…"

And I paid really close attention when multiple people from publishing companies talked (and laughed) about the horrible rhyming picture book manuscripts they receive constantly. Apparently these are often the lowest of the low. "Great," I thought. "I just sent a rhyming picture book manuscript to an agent…"

Now I'll remind you, I met really nice people at the convention. Most of them said kind things, helpful things, instructive and informative things. And there were cookies. But… I came away remembering mainly the gloomy moments and feeling very disheartened. 


The Day I Should Have Stayed Home (A Retrospective Tale of Woe)

It's been a while since I've sat down to write a blog post. The reason is that I have way too much to say. I don't know where to start. So I'm just going to start wherever. A while back I went to a writing and illustration conference. I was not in a great frame of mind at the time. Let me take this moment to state that I am a very up and down person. I have a tendency to either feel extremely hopeful, like anything is possible, or to feel like almost nothing is possible, like crossing the room to get a glass of water may take too much energy. I'm not exaggerating at all here. So, at the time I went to the writing and illustration conference I was in the “It's hard to get a glass of water” frame of mind. In retrospect it would have been a great idea to stay home. 

For me, sometimes community is a bad thing and isolation is healing. Yeah, I know—I've never heard anyone say this.

I'm going to take a break from this story to tell you something else. I hear people say that community is good and that isolation is bad. By community they usually mean interacting with a group of people—maybe a Sunday school class or church group, a neighborhood cookout, a community dinner, a cocktail party, a book club, or a writing and illustration conference…For me,  sometimes community is a bad thing and isolation is healing. Yeah, I know—I've never heard anyone say this. But listen, if I'm feeling really low and I can tell that my thoughts are altogether a little off kilter, the last thing I should do is insert myself into “community”. I have tested this theory at least a thousand times. I have gone to the social function in the name of "community is good and isolation is bad" and guess what? It does NOT go well. It isn't enjoyable (for anyone involved). It isn't helpful. I like to get my head straight BEFORE entering into that kind of community. And I get my head straight by means of isolation—going for walks and praying, and talking to my very oldest, dearest friends, on the phone (but not all at once because that would be weird and awkward). So…sometimes, community is bad and isolation is good. 

Back to the writing and illustration conference. To say I walked into this in a low, sad state of mind really doesn't do it justice. So, it won't surprise you when I say it didn't go well.  

It occurs to me that this is going to be a very long story. So for now I'm going to leave you with this little illustration of how I was feeling heading into community on the day I should have stayed home.


Disclaimer: The writing and illustration conference itself was a really great thing—well organized by thoughtful people, full of helpful information. But when a person in a bad frame of mind (in this case me) walks into a good thing, it is a bad thing. I've drawn a few little illustrations of this point. One is of me, in a rotten frame of mind, walking into a Happiness/Cotton Candy Convention. One is of me walking into a Fantastic Hats Shop, and one (just for kicks) is me walking into Narnia. You can tell that even in the Narnia scenario, things just weren't going to go well. 

©amygrimes_happiness and cotton candy.jpg
©amygrimes_fantastic hats shop.jpg

The Incredible Shrinking Czar

Those of you who know me fairly well may or may not remember that I love Shrinky Dinks. They're these plastic papers that you can color, cut out and shrink in the oven. In the end they look kind of like stained-glass...but more like stained plastic. Anyway, they've been around a long time and if you ever find them in a store you'll see that the Shrinky Dink company has clearly spent zero dollars on packaging design in the last forty years or so.

I remember watching Paul the First shrink in the oven...

A few years ago I found this amazing book on the Russian Czars and naturally I decided to put that history into Shrinky Dink format. I told the history from the time of Catherine the Great until…I can't remember which Czar I ended with. I think I stopped when I lost interest, or maybe when I realized there was absolutely no reason to shrinky dink the czars. I remember watching Paul the First shrink in the oven, and as he shrunk I told my kids his very sad story.

Poor Paul the First was the son of Catherine the Great, and she was not impressed with him. She didn't let him make any decisions himself. He didn't even get to decorate his own castle (but he did have a castle, so we can't feel too sorry for him). When Paul grew up he became riddled with fear that he would one day be assassinated—not a groundless fear since LOTS of his predecessors had been assassinated. So He came up with a plan. He built a castle fortress with big drawbridges and he and his family and his most trusted advisors closed themselves inside. Paul was safe at last! Until maybe a day later when his most trusted advisors assassinated him. Poor Paul the First!!

...a fortress that fails sometimes is not good enough...

I can relate to Paul. Sometimes I long for a fortress. A place to hide. The idea of somehow locking all the bad stuff, and even the unknown, outside sounds wonderful. And in various ways I do arrange my life carefully, trying to make a fortress that will work. But over and over again my carefully crafted fortresses fail me. They don't fail all the time, but they all fail sometimes. And a fortress that fails sometimes is not good enough. God is the only one who never fails. I definitely don't mean that He always does what I want. He doesn't always rescue me from pain, like the fortress  me and Paul the First had in mind, but He does rescue me from fear. And He gives me courage so that I don't have to hide while life passes me by.

~ Amy